Saturday, September 20, 2008
The makings of another great day here on the hill. It's 35 degrees out right now, still and quiet. I've been up since about 4 when the moonshine was bright enough to confuse a tired gardener who really should have slept a bit longer. This will be another fine autumn day just the same.
The contrast today is that the ground doesn't have patches of white from thick but spotty frost. As I headed for Waterbury yesterday, many properties along the way were dotted with parts of a massive patchwork quilt of sheets and towels, tarps and old shower curtains, grain sacks and recycled construction poly. The freeze was severe in some places, ending all gardening for this year while in other places the threat was only that. Forecasters now predict 5 consecutive days with no threat of frost so we'll enjoy the annual flowers a bit longer. Despite a below freezing temperature here, some things are history, others were untouched.
Each night now as I return from my "other" world of work, I stop at the nursery and work until about 7. That's when the mosquitoes begin to bite and the sun goes into hiding. Last night the sun was dropping faster than I could get started but even an hour's worth of work helps with the giant fall clean up. One of the projects is pulling the sunflowers.
Sunflowers are a neat crop and again this year we bought seeds from the commercial side of Johnnys Selected Seeds in Maine. The sunflower varieties are extensive as you can tell by the rows we planted. Alex has begun to help pull those that have gone by while Gail avoids the project as if it doesn't have to happen. To stand tall, sunflowers grab the earth with a tenacity that challenges the strongest of us. Sometimes you end up with a broken stalk but if you're lucky, it's the entire plant that breaks loose and you can pound off the dirt, lop off the seed head for drying and move the balance onto a long term recycle pile.
As the sunflowers dry naturally, the pistels on each seed in the head will drop off and the seeds will begin to cure. As we cut them, we rub off the extras to get to the seeds which then dry faster in the sun.
Some sunflowers show their maturity by dropping their heads as if in embarrassment and cure from there. You wouldn't think a flower would look away from you but some of these do.
Over the next couple days we'll pull all these plants. We'll keep the good seed heads for the feeders here on the hill and leave the rest along the river bank for the birds. River buffer zones are important to wildlife and the seeds will be welcomed meals to a variety of birds and animals.
This year we should have 250 pounds of seed when all is done. Since 50 pounds bags now exceed $26, the left overs from our cut flower sales will help with our budget. The birds, squirrels, mice and chipmunks should be happy too.
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl the Wonder Dog just convinced Gail he could wait no longer and off they went on a morning walk.
Best autumn gardening wishes,
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm